Drum Corps International
His, hers and ours!

His, hers and ours!

by Drum Corps International

David Pressley marched with the Memphis Blues in 1983, Blue Knights in 1984 and Carolina Gold senior corps in 2003. His wife, Jennie McCormack Pressley, marched Florida Wave from 1987 through 1989 and Carolina Gold senior in 2003. The following recollection is in David's words. After aging out from the Blue Knights in 1984, I became a small town high school band director in southeastern Tennessee. A friend from my time with Memphis Blues (1983) was on the Florida Wave staff, and he invited me down as a general tour volunteer, hoping that I would bring a few kids with me. That's how in 1986 I came to be a tour driver for the Florida Wave. Because I was also covering some shows for Drum Corps World and needed to see the entire show, I would leave housing with the souvie crew and help them set the trailer up. Side note to those who would try this: NOT A GOOD IDEA. Covering a competition objectively is difficult when one is touring with one of the corps competing! I still spend a little time touring. I stopped trying to cover the shows 15 years ago! Florida Wave was, at that time, a corps that had shown remarkable improvement over the previous three or four seasons. Wave began the 1987 season looking to field a full corps for the first time. My memory isn't absolute, but it seems that there were maybe four or five holes in the horn line when the corps pulled out on tour. I soon found myself striking up conversations with high school band kids who lingered around the souvies a little too long. "So, do you think you could play mellophone? We still need one, you know. Drum corps could change your life forever. Could you be packed and ready to go by midnight?" One by one, we picked up members to fill the line through a 10- or 12-day first tour from Massachusetts down the Atlantic Coast. The final show of this initial tour was at Lake Howell High School in suburban Orlando. That night I moved towards another corps souvie trailer, trying to fill the mellophone line by recruiting a potential member I'd been working on for a few days. She had been cut by a traditional "top 4" corps but had volunteered to work their souvie trailer on the first tour. She hoped that by doing this the corps director would know her when she tried out the following year. My line: "You might be a more valuable addition to a corps making a DCI championship run if you had a season's experience building your skills with a younger corps – say -- like Florida Wave for instance -- than if you just spent the summer selling T-shirts." Meanwhile, Jennie McCormack, a trumpet player in the Lake Howell Silver Regiment, was working (concessions, I think) at the show. She came by the Florida Wave trailer on a break to look at T-shirts and lingered just a little too long. Another member of our crew pounced (figuratively) on Jennie with, "Have you ever thought about marching drum corps?" She had. "Do you think you could be packed and get up to our week long rehearsal camp in New Smyrna Beach by tomorrow night?" She thought so, but had to talk to her folks first. Jennie was introduced to the program coordinator who wanted first to make certain that someone else on the staff had not already recruited a person for the remaining soprano position. He promised to call Jennie once he knew whether or not he had the spot for her. Jennie joined the Florida Wave the following day after receiving the official call from Jeff Bridges. She actually got the news while working at a band fund-raiser car wash. She got the hang of it in short order and turned out to be a tremendously dedicated member. She was in the show the first night out on second tour. We had a few conversations through the remainder of the 1987 tour. Neither of us knew the other's last name at the time. To be honest, Jennie knew me only by the Florida Wave nickname I had picked up the previous summer. Jennie returned to the Florida Wave in 1988 and 1989. Again, there were a few conversations on the road at various housing sites, but no real clue that we would eventually become a couple. By early 1989 I wanted to pursue a graduate degree and thought some GI bill money would help with the tuition. I worked to get myself in shape and passed an audition to enlist as an army bandsman. (I hoped it would be like drum corps, but with a paycheck!) I was scheduled to leave for basic training just a few days before the drum corps season ended. Jennie was intrigued by my enlistment so she asked for my address and promised to write once I left for basic training. The idea of having a soldier pen pal appealed to her and I was somewhat flattered myself. In August 1989, I began basic training at Ft. Dix, N.J. Meanwhile, Jennie finished the drum corps season and went to work at her dad's accounting office in New Jersey while attending community college. I learned this from a letter that caught up with me in late October after I arrived at the Armed Forces School of Music in Little Creek, Va. In June 1990, I was assigned as a trumpet player with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division Band at Ft. Campbell, Ky. I performed with the band in various military drills and ceremonies and additionally found myself drawing funeral detail about two weeks of every month. That meant spending days driving to cemeteries around Tennessee and Kentucky to play "Taps" at veterans' funerals. Sometimes I would do as many as four or five funerals a day. [BOO NOTE: If you are an upper brass player, please go to www.buglesacrossamerica.org and sign up to be available to perform "Taps" at the funeral of a veteran. Brass players registered with Bugles Across America have already provided comfort to the families of many of our esteemed deceased veterans.] On Aug. 2, 1990, I was assigned the first burial in Knoxville, Tenn.'s, newly developed veterans cemetery. The grounds were lovely and the media was out to cover the event. One of the reporters asked me, "Did you hear that Iraq invaded Kuwait this morning and do you think you'll be sent to the Middle East?" I had not heard that and, frankly, I couldn't imagine what good a trumpet player would be in a combat zone. Meanwhile, Jennie had moved to California. She dreamed of perhaps ageing out with her favorite corps -- a dream that didn't quite materialize because she found that it was all she could do to earn the money necessary to live in California, much less pay tour fees. She gravitated from the Bay Area to Southern California and wrote a lengthy letter about this to me that began, "Surprise, I don't live in New Jersey anymore." Addressed to me in Virginia, this letter had been forwarded to Kentucky where it was forwarded yet again. It reached me in early October where I was holding an M-16 rifle and pulling guard duty atop a sewage treatment plant in Saudi Arabia. This would be the answer to what good a trumpet player would be in a combat zone! This whole military band thing was most decidedly NOT just like drum corps with a paycheck! I answered Jennie's letter starting with, "Surprise, I'm not living in the United States anymore." Over the duration of what became Operation Desert Shield and later Operation Desert Storm, Jennie and I exchanged frequent letters. We were both finding ourselves in situations that were not at all the consequences we had expected our choices would yield. In our letters we discovered similar values, worldviews and work ethics. The groundwork for what is now a great marriage was established in our "Desert Storm letters." Of course this is real life and not a Hollywood script. Things didn't just immediately work out when I made it back to the United States in late spring, 1991. Jennie was seeing someone by then. I entered a relationship shortly thereafter with a girl I met in Maryland while the 101st Band was housed at College Park for appearances in the Washington and New York Desert Storm victory parades. Graduate school at Maryland followed for me. A move to Northern Virginia and a job in Washington, DC -- just a few miles from where I was in school -- came next for Jennie. Five years passed when, by the spring of 1996, Jennie and I were both available at the same time, although she was still in Northern Virginia while I had moved to North Carolina. Jennie was unhappy with the D.C. area and I suggested that maybe she ought to consider moving to North Carolina, where she could find a decent job and finish a college degree. I seriously underestimated just how ready to go Jennie was because when I next talked with her a few weeks later, she announced that she was moving to North Carolina and that she had already served notice to both her employer and her landlord. At this point, I had to confess an ulterior motive -- that I had been interested in her going back to those 1990/91 "Desert Storm letters" and that if she came to North Carolina I was going to show up on her doorstep to ask her out. She said essentially that she realized this and in fact was secretly hoping that this would be the case. Our first "date," if you will, was the August 1996 Nightbeat DCI show in Charlotte. We then went down to Orlando for DCI semifinals and finals the following weekend. Things moved forward nicely and we were engaged by September 1997. The minister who married us in July 1998 was an old friend of mine who just happened to be a 1985 Crossmen ageout. While returning from our honeymoon at Glacier National Park in Montana, we managed literally to stop off and catch the Burlington, Iowa, DCI show. I say "literally" because we arrived at the stadium driving in from LaCrosse, Wis., about three minutes before the first corps stepped off. In order to recapture some of the magic that brought us together in the first place, Jennie and I finally marched as members of the same horn line with the 2003 Carolina Gold senior corps. We're living in Western North Carolina, more than five hours from Gold rehearsals -- just a little too far for us to continue our membership. You could say that we're a drum corps couple beyond any shadow of a doubt. One of the walls in our house features framed corps photos of the 1984 Blue Knights, 1987 Florida Wave, and 2003 Carolina Gold -- his, hers, and ours! Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.

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